>> ladies and gentlemen, today is a special day at the college of the holy cross not just because of the event that is beginning. it was on this day 169 year ago that the college had its formal opening. there was a mass to seek divine blessing after which the faculty and guests toasted the health of the founder, bishop fenwick of boston, with a good glass of wine. the following morning classes opened with six students. this evening our numbers are considerably large orer, and among the guests in the audience are our congressman, jim mcgovern, also mary beth mcmahon, senior vice president of special olympics massachusetts, virginia swain, returned peace corps volunteer
coordinator and kathy fielder, representing holy cross. to you special guests and to everyone, a warm welcome. we also need to note the absence of a holy cross junior, ken jordan, head of the local chapter of the knights of columbus, whose brother died in an auto accident two days ago. ken and his fellow knights have put forth great effort to publicize this evening's event, and ken had been anticipating it eagerly. this evening it's a particular pleasure to welcome mark back to his alma mater. he took several courses with me during his student days, but our relationship wasn't completely academic. through the generosity of mark's father, i was able to accompany him and one of his classmates in travels through poland and the soviet union in the summer of
1985, the summer before their senior year. and on that first day in leningrad -- now st. petersburg -- mark, always his father's son, asked if we could celebrate daily mass during our travels. this we arranged, and for me the happiness in praying daily in the soviet union with two gifted students was one of the brightest parts of our journey. mark went on to write his senior thesis on lyndon johnson's war on poverty. his list of achievements and honors since graduation is impressive. from 1988 to 1995, mark served as the founder and director of the choice program, an intensive, community-based counseling and advocacy program for status offenders, delinquents, abused and neglected youth in maryland. subsequently, mark served four
terms in the maryland house of delegates where, among other duties, he chaired the joint committee on children, youth and families. following an unsuccessful campaign for congress in 2002, mark served, has served as the vice president and managing director of u.s. programs for save the children. he also chairs the national commission on children and disasters and, of course, he received an honorary degree from holy cross in 2010 and delivered the commencement address. mark, welcome. i'm here to say something about the life and achievements of sargent shriver, mark's dad. and summarizing his life in a few minutes is about as easy as trying to reduce the recent hurricane to a gentle breeze. his was an amazing life, and all who are familiar with it will concur with the universeally-stated on vegas
that -- observation that he was, indeed, a good man. to read scott fossil's biography is to encounter the life of a modern saint. and as bill clinton remarked in his eulogy at the funeral, sargent shriver really was that good. he was born in 1915. his parents were catholic social justice advocates, and his godfather was cardinal james gibbons of baltimore. he was educated at yale university and yale law school and immediately entered the navy where he received the purple heart for his service in the pacific theater. the awful immediacy of his war experiences made him a man who was dedicated to making every feasible effort to achieve peace. after he was discharged at the end of war, he worked as "newsweek" magazine, and in that job came into contact with joseph kennedy sr. who asked him
to manage the merchandise mart in chicago. during those chicago years, he married the boss' daughter, eunice, in 1953 and chaired the chicago school board and the catholic interracial council as a supporter of desegregation of the city's schools. shriver's prominence in the commercial and social life of the state soon led to interest on the part of the political leaders to nominate him for governor of illinois. but by then his brother-in-law, john kennedy, was running for president. shriver served as kennedy's chair for illinois and also headed the campaign's civil rights division. in that capacity late in the campaign, he convinced kennedy to telephone coretta scott king in the matter of martin's imprisonment on trumped-up charges. it was a risky move given the
residual racism that still tainted american life. but many analysts have concluded that the phone call attracted enough african-american votes to the democratic party that year to win a razor-thin victory for john kennedy. after the inauguration president ken din asked -- kennedy asked shriver to assume leadership as the founding director of the peace corps. when asked why he had selected his brother-in-law for the job, kennedy said that if the project were to become a flop, it would be easier to fire a member of the family than a political ally. when we look at the origins of the peace corps today, we have to be careful not to read history backwards or to argue that the success of the peace corps was inevitable. it wasn't so in 1961. deep in the cold war, many thoughtful people were skeptical of putting the reputation and
presence of the united states in underdeveloped countries into the hands of young people in their 20s. president eisenhower called the concept juvenile. others wanted only a small pilot program, and the state department wanted the peace corps to be under their control. but sergeant shriver with his boundless optimism in the idealism of young people and older volunteers wanted an independent agency without undue restrictions on size. he visited every member of congress to win his approval, and the campaign succeeded in september of 1961. within two years the peace corps had grown beyond belief. then came the sad day, seared in the memory of all of us of a certain age, when john kennedy was assassinated.
at the request of jacqueline kennedy, shriver took over planning of the funeral, sleeping only a few hours per night as the arrangements were made. the dignity, the pageantry, the deep religious feelings of those four days in november were the result. one journalist remarked, those brutally-emotional scenes which pinned the world to its television sets for four days came more out of sliefer's mind -- shriver's mind than out of anyone else. afterwards, lyndon johnson gave serious consideration to drafting shriver as his running mate in the 1964 election. but the kennedy family, so most historians tell us, wanted robert kennedy to assume political leadership, and eventually hubert humphrey took the vice presidency. shortly after the election,
johnson asked shriver to head the war on poverty, some of the impetus for prioritizing the issue of poverty came from the other america, a best-selling study of poverty by holy cross alumnus michael harrington who found poverty hidden in appalachia and if america's inner -- and in america's inner cities. shriver accepted the challenge and got to work first of all researching the scope of the problem and its possible solutions. he found 30 million americans then live anything poverty -- living in poverty, and his agenda for them was not handouts, but employment through programs like the preschool head start program, a job corps to retrain adults for an increasingly postindustrial economy and vista, volunteers in service to america, often described as a domestic peace corps. there were programs stressing community leadership, local
planning with federal funds, and there were legal services for the poor. in time the war on poverty raised up resentment from some public officials who were challenged by the fewly-empowered poor. newly-empowered poor. meanwhile, slowly but inexorably, the war in vietnam drew funding away from slave's operation. offered a choice between war in asia and the war in poverty, johnson reluctantly took the military option. shriver opposed this reordering of priorities, generating the observation in washington and elsewhere, quote: like the poor, we have shriver always with us, end of quote. nevertheless, between 1964 and 1968 one-third of america's poor moved upward out of poverty. by the spring of 1968, tension
over the budget priorities led shriver to give up on what had become an impossible task and to take the ambassadorship to france. when the democrats met that summer in stormy chicago, shriver's name again came up for the vice presidency. in fact, he had an acceptance speech written and reservations on a flight from paris to chicago. but once again the kennedy family, still grieving from the recent death of robert, raised an objection in favor of ted. so shriver remained in paris until 1970. his success in repairing the alliance with france weakened birdies agreement about the vietnam -- by disagreement about the vietnam war, had prompted president pix son to retain him -- nixon to retain him in office. not long afterwards came the 1972 election when democratic nominee george mcgovern was forced to drop his running mate,
and eventually through a process of elimination, designated sargent shriver as his choice for vice president. the election was a disaster for mcgovern and shriver who only won massachusetts and the district of columbia. but perhaps the final word came 18 months later as the watergate scandal unfolded and bumper stickers appeared. they carried an outline of the bay state, and within its boundaries the words "we told you so." [laughter] in 1976 shriver ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in a year when an electorate, eager for change, opted for jimmy carter. after the presidential run, shriver assumed the presidency of the special olympics, a task that largely engaged him and eunice until the end of their lives. and it was shriver at the age of
85 who confronted the government of china in the organization's interest. and by 2007 their world summer olympic games were held in shanghai. shriver also advised the u.s. catholic bishops in drafting a letter on nuclear war issued in 1983, and he worked to influence the reagan administration to accept a no-first-strike approach to nuclear weapons. in 1993 president clinton presented him the presidential medal of freedom. this bare bones account of sargent shriver's life and achievements suggests but does not describe the spirit of a man who was a devout catholic and an inspired and inspiring father. how can we understand the spirit and motivation of such a
versatile and resilient man? striving to understand sergeant shriver, i think of the inflated clown toy perhaps two-and-a-half or three feet tall favored by 2-year-olds around the world. and at the rounded bottom of the toy, there is a bag of sand so that no matter how often you push him down, he springs back upright again. it's great fun if you're 2, but sargent shriver was like that his whole life. no matter how many times life and circumstances pushed him down whether in the fight to establish the peace corps or the vice presidential nominations threatened or the war on poverty derailed, the dismal electoral -- >> and we're going to break away from booktv now to go live to the floor of the u.s. senate. lawmakers today anticipating a possible, a possible agreement regarding the fiscal cliff. no deal has been reached yet. senators today will technically
the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty god, we praise your name. you are high over all the nations and your glory is greater than the heavens. let your spirit move our lawmakers to do your will. teach them valuable lessons from hardships and adversities, as they work to be worthy of the sacrifices of those who have already given so much for freedom. lift them from the darkness of hopelessness so that they may
take steps toward your light. may your presence and grace bring comfort, as you inspire them to choose what is right and just. may they take the tide that leads to fortune rather than risk a national voyage bound in shallows and in miseries. we pray in your powerful name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
the president pro tempore: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks, we'll be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak for up to tufplts ten minutes each. discussions continue today on a plan to protect middle-class families from a tax increase tomorrow. there are a number of issues on which the two sides are still apart. but negotiations are continuing as i speak. we really are running out of time. americans are threatened with a tax hike in just a few hours. i hope we can keep in mind our single-most important goal is to
protect middle-class families. whether or not we reach agreement in the short time we have left we'll need agreement from both sides from taxes going up tomorrow for every family in america. there are still some issues that need to be resolved before we can bring legislation to the floor. the president pro tempore: under the previous order, the senate will proceed to a period of morning business until 12:00 noon. it's for debate only. senators are permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: mr. president, i understand we're in morning business. the president pro tempore: the senator is correct.
mr. harkin: mr. president, i was disturbed to read in "the washington post" this morning that some kind of agreements are being made here. somehow that democrats have agreed to raise the level of, from $250,000 to $450,000, and that somehow there's been an agreement reached that we would keep the estate taxes at the $5 million level, at 35%. mr. president, this is one democrat that doesn't agree with that at all. what it looks like is it looks like all of the tax things are going to be made permanent, but all of the other things that the middle class in america depend on is extended for one year, maybe two years.
one year or two years at the most; but the tax system is made permanent. i think that's grossly unfair. grossly unfair. and then again, we're going to lock in forever the idea that $450,000 a year is middle class in america? need i remind people that at $250,000 a year, that's the top 2% income earners in america. i know the president keeps saying he wants to protect tax cuts for the middle class. fine, i'm all for that. if you go up to $250,000, that's a tough pill to swallow, because that covers everyone except the top 2%. if you make $250,000 a year, you're not middle class. you're in the top 2% of income earners in america. what have we forgotten? have we forgotten average income earners in america are making $25,000, $30,000, $40,000,
$60,000 a year? that's the real middle class in america and they are the ones getting hammered now, getting hammered with housing costs, rental, heating bills, kids going to school. they have no retirement. now they're talking about raising the tee -- raising the retirement age, people standing on their feet, women standing on their feet for 30, 40 years; going to raise the retirement age on them. again, if we're going to have some kind of a deal, the deal must be one that really does favor the middle class, the real middle class, those that are making $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year. that's the real middle class in america. as i see this thing developing, quite frankly, as i've said before, no deal is better than a bad deal.
and this looks like a very bad deal the way this is shaping up. so i just want to make it clear, i'm all in favor of compromise. i've been here a long time, mr. president. i've made a lot of compromises. i'm twoeulg make more kroeuplz. but -- i'm willing to make more compromises. but this is one time where decisions that are made on this so-called deal could lock in for the next years what kind of a country this is going to be, what kind of society. so we better be darned careful. if no deal is reached, then on the tax side, we go back to the taxes that were enacted under president clinton. now we all voted, at least all the democrats here, that were here then voted for the clinton tax bill in 1993. we heard all kinds of talk from
the other side of the aisle how this is going to be disastrous, it was going to kill the economy. it was just going to be awful. and not one republican supported it. but we passed it. president clinton signed it into law, and guess what happened? the economy took off. unemployment came down. the economy started going. and we were paying down the deficit. we had three straight years or four of surpluses. c.b.o. said if we continued on that way, we would pay off the national debt by 2010. well, then george bush came into office, they looked at all the surpluses out there and said guess what? we've got to take some of that and give it back in tax cuts, and that's what they did. now that's what's ending tonight. that's what ends tonight, are those bush tax cuts. so we go back to the tax system that we had under bill clinton. i ask, what's so bad about that?
it worked pretty darned well. the economy was going well. we were paying down the deficit. things were going well under bill clinton, under that tax system, and that's what we'll go back to tomorrow. what's so bad about that? well, what's happened is in the last ten years a lot of people have gotten very rich in this country. very rich. and now they want to protect their wealth. and that's what they want to do. they want to lock in this system on estate taxes and lower tax rates up to $450,000 or $500,000 or a million or whatever they want. they want to lock that in. i think it's time for them to start paying their fair share, and they did under the clinton tax provisions that we had in place at that time. so to go back to the tax provisions that we had under bill clinton doesn't frighten me one bit.
but now we hear the same song and dance from the republicans. if we do that, the sky's going to fall. the world will end tomorrow. the markets will just go all to heck. we heard that in 1993, and it was wrong. we're hearing it again today about what will happen if we go back to the clinton-era tax provisions. they say the sky's going to fall. they're wrong again. they're just wrong again. so i for one am not -- do not fear going back to a system of taxation that basically worked very well for our country. the bush tax cuts that messed everything up for ten years. few people got very rich but kept the middle class from advancing any at all. so again, this idea that somehow a deal is going to be cooked up
that's going to make permanent -- permanent -- all these tax advantages that people had over the last ten years and that they have now in estate taxes are going to make that permanent somehow does not sit well with this senator. and yet, everything else, when we're talking about unemployment insurance, when we're talking about investments that other parts of our economy, the sustainable growth rate for our hospitals and our doctors and medicare, well that's only good for one year, you see. that's only good for one year or two years. but the tax side that lets those most privileged in our society continue to not pay their, i think the share they should be paying, that's not a good deal.
that's not fair. that's not equitable. that's not just. i hope that those that are negotiating continue to negotiate. if there was a deal that could be made that really does focus on the middle class, gets our estate taxes back where they were before at some reasonable level, not at the level they're at right now, well, maybe we could live with something like that. but from what i read this morning and the direction they're headed is just absolutely the wrong direction for our country. mr. president, with that i yield the floor. the president pro tempore: who seeks recognition? the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, it is so ordered. mrs. boxer: mr. president, we're all here and hopeful that there will be a deal so that we can avert going over the fiscal cliff. and i listened carefully to my friend, senator harkin's remarks, which i would have to describe as fairly negative remarks. i want to just put out a bit more a positive view. we all know that no side, if there is a deal, is going to get 100% of what they want. we know that because one party doesn't control everything. so we are going to have to meet
somewhere in the middle of where both parties stand. and we also know that if we don't act, 100% of the american people are going to start feeling an impact of higher taxes. i honestly don't worry about the millionaires and billionaires at all. i don't worry about the people who are fine, who don't even really know or care that much about a tax hike that takes them back to the clinton years when they did very well. i don't worry about those folks. i worry about the folks in the middle. and there are always arguments about what is that line? and some say the middle class is at $75,000, some say $150,000,
some even go higher because there are states like my state that are very high cost-of-living states. but we know, if we're going to get a deal, we're going to have to meet somewhere in the middle. to me, if we fail, it will be a very, very sad moment in history. and i hear a lot of talk about the sequester. well, mr. president, i don't know exactly how you voted, but i want to say that i voted for a sequester, if we couldn't find savings as part of a debt limit deal. and i'm not about to stand up here and say, throw it out; i don't like it; it will bite.
but p if we said we want to make savings and if we couldn't do it one way we would do it through the sequester, i think we have to step up to the plate and admit that that's the policy we voted for. i'd much prefer to ease it, and i think there are ways to do that. one way is to bring the money home from the overseas spending account and use that money because we're getting out of afghanistan, thank god, and the with aer in iraq is over. -- and the war in iraq is over. we could bring home that overseas war account money and bring that to soften the sequester, even to stop it completely. but my understanding is my republican colleagues don't view that as real. but the congressional budget office says it's real. so that's a way that we can stop
the sequester. other than that, i think we have to own up to the fact that in the debt ceiling crisis, we said if there weren't cuts coming forward, we would go to an automatic cut spending regime. we can't run away from things that we did, it seems to me. so i think there are the elements of puttin putting someg together here and i know that the vice president is working hard with senator mcconnell and senator reid, as an honest broker to bring us together, and i know that senator harkin was very, at this point, not optimistic on what he's hearing. i feel, from what i'm hearing, that it's maybe something -- maybe -- it may not be, we don't know, we haven't seen it -- it may be something that extends
unemployment benefits, which is very, very important -- it's critical. you want want to tal to talk abl cliff? it's the people who are about to lose their unemployment compensation. and, mr. president, the economists tell us that that is the best bang for the buck. when you give someone who is on -- who is unemployed $1, he goes out, she goes out, they spend it in the community, and it has a multiplier effect that actually spurs economic growth in the community because 70% of our economy is based on consumersism. -- consumerism. and if they have nothing, then the communities have nothing, the local businesses have nothing, let alone they would suffer. and some perhaps lose their houses and other things. so we need to to that. that's critical. if that's not in the deal, that deal is a real problem. so if that's in there and we do
the tax extenders even for a shorter period of time and we save raising taxes on -- we stop raising taxes on 98%, 97% of the people, i don't think we should prejudge that at thi at this po. the devil is always in the details of the something could comde--something could always c. but senator reid going down to the microphone sand saying we're not cutting social security benefits. that is not part of this package. don't even put it on the table. stop. and they had their luncheon and they out -- and they came out and they actually took it off the table. that was positive. don't try to simply things in here that are -- don't try to
slip things in here that are going to hurt people, that are going to balance the budget on the backs of people who can't do it. don't bring that up, don't do it when we're doing a very short-term deal to get us over this cliff. so, mr. president, none of us except for a couple of people really knows what's in this de deal. we're hearing leaks about it. we're hearing rumors about t we don't know if we'll have the deal. personally, i hope we have something that we can look at and we can decide whether it's something we could support and not prejudge it at this stage because we have to remember something: this is a compromise. we don't have a parliamentary system of government here. one party doesn't run the show. it is shared responsibility. it is frustrating. it is difficult.
but having been able to bring a highway bill to the floor myself, as chairman of the environment and public works committee, doing it with senator inhofe -- you couldn't find two people, you know, more philosophically apart than we are. i've seen you, mr. president, do the same in your committee working with the other side, and you brought out of our committee an incredible bill called the violence against women act. did you it with the republicans. i watched debbie stabenow did it with pat roberts, come forward with a farm bill. i've watched senator feinstein in intelligence, and senator levin and senator mccain. it can happen. we can make it happen. we have to make it happen. but i'll close with this: i served in the house for 10 years. i served with incredible members, and one of them was tip o'neill, and he was the speaker. and tip o'neill had a certain magic about him, but the magic
was that he understood how to get things done because he didn't consider himself speaker of the democrats; he considered himself speaker of the house. and he knew the magic was 218. that was the number. he'd come over to me and every member when there was a tough vote and he'd say, well, barbara, can you be with me on this one? and i'd say, gee, mr. speaker, i don't think so. it's not good for my district. i really don't think i can. and he would say to me, well, you know what? if that's how you feel about it i understand. if i need you, i'll come back to you. and then he'd go do the same thing and pick up some republicans on the other side. and he'd get the magic of 1218 e magic of 218 and it would be done. right moi we have a speaker, -- right now we have a speaker, speake,speaker, boehner, who i d like, but i doesn't want to talk
to the democrats. nothing is going to get done if we don't talk to each other. we don't have a parliamentary system. we have to work together. so with that, i wanted to add at least a cautiously optimistic note that i am a hopeful -- that i'm hopeful that we will get something done. and i think if we do and if it's fair -- fair enough, we should get our country off this cliff. thank you very much. i yield the floor.
mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, one of the managers of, i guess, of being president pro tempore, i get to preside more than i had for a while and hear some of the speeches of my colleagues, which i appreciate. the senate is a place i love, as i know the distinguished presiding officer does, and it
is, as i've often said, a place that should be the conscience of the nation. there's only a hundred of us representing over 300 million americans. we should be able to stand up and be the conscience. i worry, though, as i hear the debate on this so-called fiscal cliff, and i hear some on other side say, well, we're not prepared to vote, we don't want to vote. well, that means you want to vote "maybe." none of us were elected on a promise to vote "maybe." if the other side wants to vote and give huge tax cuts to mult imillionaires, well, fine, then vote -- vote "yes" for that, if they want. but don't say we won't have any vote one way or the other; we'll vote "maybe."
we're supposed to be willing to take the consequences of how we vote. vote "yes" or vote "no." if you want to vote for keeping taxes lower for the middle class, for those who have hourly wages, for those who work hard in our economy, then stand up and vote yes, we want to give them a tax break. if you don't want to give them a tax break, then vote "no." but what is happening, by refusing to vote at all, whether it is in the shal -- the republs in the house of representatives or here in the senate, by refusing to vote at all, what you're doing with your "maybe" vote, you're going to dramatically increase taxes on the middle class. now, -- and then to try to justify that by saying, we
wanted to vote "maybe" because we really wanted, in the end run, to protect millionaires. now, millionaires do all right. i know a the although of millionaires. and they've told me that, as the senator from iowa said earlier this morning, they can afford the taxes that they paid during the clinton era, because during that era, they made more money than they'd ever made. so they paid higher taxes. so what? the amount of money they had at the end of the year was greater than it ever had been. but you know what happened during that clinton era, mr. president. we balanced the budget. incidentally, not a single republican voted for this plan. they gave speeches on the floor about recession, even a
depression. instead the economy grew faster than it ever had before. people had more money in their pockets than they ever had before. we balanced the budget, we started paying down the national debt. the next administration came in and gave everybody, including millionaires, a big tax cut. but worse than that, it began a war in iraq that never should have begun. against iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, even though we had the president of the united states suggesting in his speeches that it was connected with 9/11; claiming there was weapons of mass destruction even though those who actually read the intelligence, as a former vice chairman of the intelligence committee, senator graham of florida did, and i
did, realized there was -- there were no weapons of mass destruction. but they voted for this war, and one other bad mistake they made, other than the tragic mistake of going to a war we had no reason to go to, one that cost us thousands of american lives and countless thousands of other lives and a $1 trillion, they did something that we have never done before in the history of this country. they said we'll go to that war on a credit card. we'll just borrow the money. vietnam was an unpopular war, but we had a surtax to pay for it. korea was an unpopular war; we paid for it. world war ii, we knew it was the survival of our nation, and we paid for it. in iraq, we spent $1 trillion
that we'll be spending for longer than any of us in this body will probably live. we paid for the damage of so many of our brave men and women and we borrowed the money and we took everything built up during the clinton era and wasted it. doing the same thing with afghanistan. we said the reason for going in there was to get osama bin laden. we go into a nation-building war which seems to have no end, again, on a credit card. osama bin laden has been dead now for some time. we ought to, to use a phrase of a former senator from vermont, we ought to declare victory and get out. but again we're doing it on a credit card. and so what are we saying?
we have two wars we shouldn't be in, and we said we've got to pay for it, we ought to take some money away from senior citizens. we ought to take money away from education. we ought to take money away from medical research. we ought to take money away from rebuilding what needs to be done in our country to pay for two wars we put on our credit card. come on. as one vermonter said to me, you spend all this money to build these roads and bridges in iraq and afghanistan, and then they blow them up. why don't you rebuild our roads and bridges in america. we americans will take care of them. so, mr. president, with all the talk of where we are, let's not forget the big elephant in the room. that was two wars on a credit card, one going far longer than
we had any reason to. the other one totally unnecessary in the first place. as much as a couple trillion dollars between the two of them. that was money that could have been spent in america for americans to make america better. we wasted it there. now we say how can we punish americans, the average american? how can we punish them for the mistakes we made going into two wars. we'll punish them to pay for them. come on, let's face up to reality. mr. president, i suspect i may have more to say on this in the future, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is. mr. thune: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lift and i be allowed to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, we
are at the last hour, if you will, the last day for sure in dealing with what has become probably the biggest fiscal crisis that our country has dealt with in some time. and i heard a number of my colleagues from the other side come down and talk about the importance of getting a solution. we all want to get a solution. you don't want to have a situation tomorrow where tax rates go up on everybody across this country that has an incomes tax liability. you oval don't want to see our -- you obviously don't want to see our defense have to deal with what would be deep, deep cuts in our national security budget. those are two things that will happen tomorrow unless congress can act to prevent that. and so count me among those who wants to be, see a solution. i certainly hope that the negotiations that are occurring right now can conclude in a way that will give us an outcome, that prevents those tax rates from increasing on americans across this country and also put
in place some things that would actually deal with the real problem. and the real problem, mr. president, is that our country spends too much. and we are where we are today because we haven't done our work when we should have previously. if you think about the fact that for three consecutive years -- three years in a row -- in the united states senate we haven't passed a budget. we spent $3.5 trillion of american taxpayer money every single year and for three consecutive years we have not had a budget. and the majority leader and the chairman of the budget committee, others on the other side have said we passed a budget control act in august of 2011, and that sort of serves as our budget. frankly, mr. president, that isn't the case. the law requires us to pass a
budget. we have a budget act enacted back in the 1970's that requires the congress on an annual basis to lay out a plan for how we're going to spend the american taxpayers' money. and the reason we ended up with a budget control act back in august of 2011 is because we failed to pass a budget earlier in the year. three consecutive years in the united states senate we've not passed a budget. that isn't to say that our colleagues on the other side of the capitol, the house of representatives, haven't acted responsibly. you may disagree with how they did it, but at least they did it. they passed a budget. and the senate, of course, has not for now three consecutive years. so we went through this entire year; everybody knew this was coming. this isn't a surprise. this is the most forecast and foretold disaster that we've ever seen. as we approach december 31 and the deadline we're dealing with today, we knew that starting
january 1 taxes were going to go up on all americans, at least all americans who have an income tax liability. and we knew that these cuts that were put in place in the budget control act in august of 2011 were going to occur. so there isn't anything -- there shouldn't be any element of surprise. we've known about this for a long time. yet for month after month after month after month this year nothing was done about it. i say nothing in the united states senate. again, the house of representatives earlier this year, last summer, passed legislation that would extend the tax rates for everybody for a year. they passed legislation that would replace the across-the-board cuts that will start to take effect on january 2 with responsible spending reductions that actually did something to bend the curve of all these runaway programs, entitlement costs that are going to bankrupt this country in future years. they made some necessary
reforms. again, people may not agree with them, and obviously there should be a process where in the united states senate we have an opportunity to vote on a budget and make amendments. and perhaps we would do it a different way. i might have voted for something entirely different. but the point is i didn't have anything to vote for. nobody over here did. we've been here for a whole year. and now we've got people coming up and saying gee, i really wish that these negotiations will get us to an outcome. it's december 31. january 1 is tomorrow. 2013 taxes go up. everybody agrees it will be a disaster for the economy. we can't allow that to happen. it will ruin the economy. but where were we? where were we for the past month and the month before that and the month before that? dealing with what we knew was going to be this very set of circumstances that we face today. and so i just find it really hard to sit and listen to people
come up now and wring their hands and talk about gee whiz, i hope we can get something done here in the last day, as we put two people together basically to resolve this. now, there was a discussion -- in fact, everybody says, you know, these -- the people that are getting together, the president, it was the speaker at one time. now it's senator mcconnell. it was senator reid at one time. now it's senator mcconnell and vice president biden. but up until friday, senator mcconnell, the republican leader, hadn't been consulted, hadn't been advised, hadn't been involved in any of this. so he gets the call at the last minute to try to come in and sort of rescue this, starts a negotiation that goes over the weekend, and then saturday night makes a proposal to the senate democrats and was told that we'll react to your proposal by 10:00 sunday morning. 10:00 sunday morning passes,
11:00, noon, 1:00, 2:00. he comes to the floor and says we haven't heard back. then the majority leader says look, we don't have a counteroffer. we don't have a proposal. so senator mcconnell then gets on the phone with vice president biden, and that's now where those discussions are occurring. they're occurring between vice president biden and senator mcconnell. but my point, mr. president, is this, there are two people in a room deciding incredibly consequential issues for this country while 99 other united states senators and 435 members of the house of representatives, elected by their constituencies to come to washington are on the sidelines. why didn't we have a bill on the floor of the united states senate that we could actually debate? why didn't we put something out here under regular order? open it up, allow senators to offer amendments, allow them to have amendments voted on. i might not have liked that outcome.
maybe i wouldn't have. maybe i couldn't have voted for the final product. but at least we would have had an opportunity to debate this instead of waiting now until the 11th hour where two people are gathered in a private room trying to negotiate something that has enormous consequences for this country and for our economy. we are where we are because this process was grossly mismanaged up until this point. and so now we're faced with a crisis. there's great drama. you listen to all the tv stations -- at least those that cover what's going on here -- and they're all talking about the fiscal cliff. instead of a countdown until the end of the year, until the new year, we've got a countdown until we hit the fiscal cliff. what does that say? it is the most predicted financial crisis that we have ever known about. we've known about it for months. we've known about it since the temporary tax provisions were put in place two years ago. yet, here we are, the 11th
hour on the final day trying to negotiate with two people in a room. making decisions that will have a profound impact on the future of this country. and i have to say, mr. president, that as i think about those negotiations that are going on, most of what is being talked about is who will pay more in taxes, not a question of "if." it's a like, who's going to pay more in taxes? the ironic thing about it is those discussions, at least to my knowledge of them, there's very little being discussed, if anything, that deals with how is this country going to figure out a way to spend less, which is the problem, okay? i mean, let's face it. washington, d.c., doesn't have a taxing problem. we have a spending problem. now, republicans have said -- and we are willing to consider, contemplate this idea of having more revenues in the equation.
grandedgranted, the president wn election and there's a majority of democrats here in the united states senate. that's their view. obviously we've got a republican house of representatives that has a different point of view about how to solve it and try to extend the rates for everybody so nobody would have their rates go up in the middle of a weak economy. there is a big difference of opinion about thousand resolve this. but i would argue to my colleagues on both sides that if what comes out of these discussions is something that raises additional revenue, that raises taxes on people in this country, it doesn't do anything to solve the problem. in fact, in you give the president of the united states everything that he wants in terms of tax increases, you raise enough revenue next year to fund the federal government for less than a single week. so what do we do for the other weeks of the year?
a single week. that's what all this would amount to in terms of additional revenue. this is not a revenue problem. this is a spending problem that can only be solved by having the political courage to confront the challenges that face this country, not just in the near-term but in the long-term and to get us on a sustainable fiscal passag path. that means we have to confront runaway programs that if not reformed are going to bankrupt this country and saddle our children and grandchildren with a unbelievable burden of debt and a lower standard of living, a lower quality of life than our generation has experienced. p, mr. that's where we are today. we are talking abo how much taxes are going to go up? if you use the $250,000 level, it is about a million small businesses that are impacted who employ 25% of the american workforce.
and so you've got lots of middle-income americans, middle-class americans whose jobs depend on the very small businesses who are going to see their taxes go up. ing this iact middlencome, middlelass families. if you raise thatelo $4 affectser, obviously. if you raise it to $500,000, it affects even fewer small businesses. but the point simply is this: you're hitting littlesly -- youg literally hundreds of thousands of small businesses that create thousands of jobs for middle-class americans with nur taxes they will be paying and that can't do anything but hurt the very economy we all say we want to get back on its feet. so we're talking about tax increases at a time when we ought to be talking about spending decreases. if you go back to before the
recession, the revenues were about $2.5 trillion, give or take. well, this year revenues coming into the federal government are going to be back to about $2.5 trillion. we went through a terrible rehe is is. it has a profound impact on the commitment of a lot less economic growth in a recession leads to lower government revenues and so we had a period there where government revenues dropped. well, government revenues are now back, back to where they were in 2007. spending in 2007 was about $2.7 trillion. today, it's more than $3.5 trillion. so spending has increased by almost $1 trillion, almost $1 trillion in the last five years at a time when the revenues have stayed relatively flat. but the point is this: the reason we're running a $1
trillion deficit this year and the year after that and the year after that is because the spending of the federal government has exploded in the last five years. and so this isn't a revenue problem. the revenues are essentially the same as they were five years ago. the goal ought to be to get the economy growing again at a more -- in a more robust fashion. so that we're generating additional revenues coming into the federal government that would make these proficiency the dimensions of these problems look smaller by comparison. and that's why policies that hurt the economy, that slow economic growth -- and everybody conclude concludes that raisingn the middle of a weak economy is a bad idea, if you're interested in generat generating more econc growth and creating jobs. it's well-known, a documented fact among economists that if
you raise taxes you're going to have lower economic growths you're going to reduce the rate at which the economy grows and expands and therefore allows for job creation. the best thing we can do is to get the economy growing and expanding again and then all these problems look much smaller by comparison. but that means having policies in place that allow small businesses to do what they do best and that's to create jobs; that provide incentives to invest and to hire people. when you're operating in a period of economic uncertainty like we are today with these uncertain tax rates and where you have tax rates that are going to go up, regulatory burdens that continue to go up, you constantly make it more expensecy and more difficult for small businesses in this country to create jobs. creating jobs, growing the economy ought to be our goal. that is so counterintuitive to think that raising taxes would somehow accomplish that goal. and so, as we sit here at the
last day before these tax rates go up, as we try and scramble now at the last minute to find a resolution, i would simply say, mr. president, to -- and urge my colleagues that we not let this happen again. that we not be here next year or the year after waiting while two people sit in a room and try and cut a deal that most of us have not had -- been privy to or been consulted about, and the american people obviously are the ones who are ultimately impacted by this. but they haven't had an opportunity 1-to-have a role -- but they haven't had an opportunity to have a role in that. we ought to be functioning like the united states senate used to function, and that is to put bills on the floor, to allow amendments to be offered and voted on, and then however -- whatever that outcome is, ultimately, the house of
representatives will pass their version of it, perhaps we'll have a conference committee. hopeful we can get something we can put on the president's desk. that's the way it used to work. but now we're sitting here because we have twiddled our thumbs for month after month after month and here in the united states senate not passed a budget, not dealt with this issue in any substantial or meaningful way, and now we're sitting hey ons new year's -- and now we're sitting here on new year's eve. the countdown on the television isn't how many hours and minutes are left until we hit the new year. the countdown on the television is the number of hours and minutes that are left until the country goes over the fiscal cliff. think about what that says. think about that that says about this process, about the united states senate, 100 people elected to make big decisions to
rainadvance the interests and pt this country on a better path, toward a better future that is more secure, more safe and more prosperous for our children and grand chi -- and grandchildren. that's what should have happened. but it should have happened months ago. so i hope we get a result here today that addresses some of these issues, certainly something that will address the tax issue. but, mr. president, that doesn't solve the problem. if the president gets everything he wants in new taxes, it funds the government for less than a week. this is not a revenue problem. washington doesn't tax too little. it spends too much. until we recognize that and deal with what is driving federal spending, we are going to continue to saddle future generations with more debt, with more liabilities, with a lower standard of living and a lower quality of life than we've experienced and that is not fair
to emthis. it's time for us to demonstrate the political courage that is mess to take on the big -- the political courage that is necessary to take on the big issues and have the a vote. late put it on the floor and let's vote on t let's do something around here that matters, that is meaningful to the future of this country. rather than wait until the last day and the last hour and allow two people to sit in a room and decide the fate and the future of this great country. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. paul: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: something you may have heard, there's something called the fiscal cliff aproposing. and we must do something about it or we will go over a cliff. if you want to fix and do something about going over a cliff, you got to know what is the fiscal cliff.
well, the fiscal cliff apparently is taxes going up. so it must be a bad thing if your taxes go up. people have said, well, it's kind of like having people drowning and people are drowning. well, what does that mean? that's a bad thing. so what are they telling you let's save 89 out of 100 of them -- let's save 98 out of 100 of them. i'm for saving as many as we can, but that sort of implies that our policy is that drowning is a good thing. that we're going to let 2% drown. that raising taxes is bad if it happens to everyone. it's ay. but it's okay if it only happens to one or two people, maybe you don't know nem and maybe they're -- maybe you don't know them and maybe they're rich people and you don't care. anybody know anyone that works at a car lot spelling expensive cars but he only makes $40,000 but he sells cars that are
purchased by rich people. anybody remember the yacht tax? we were going to go get the rich people. had a special tax on yatz. gees who lost their jobs? the working guy making $50,000, $60,000 a year make being the the gentlemans combos the richer people with went to the bahamas to buy their yatz. this is about what doll it the economy. what it will do the average middle-class person who works for a rich person. buff to understand what the fiscal cliff is. you have to understand that the president is telling you that it's a cliff and it's bad and everybody on television thinks, it's terrible to go over the cliff. what is the cloy in taxes going up b you if it's bad for taxes to go up for a bunch of people, why is it good for taxes to go up only on a smarl portion of people? you said, with they're rich, they can afford it. here's the problem. the rich pay most of the taxes in our country. the tap 2% pay half of the taxes so what you're saying is, they're rich and they can absorb
it. but that's half of the nation's income will have increased taxes. you will take money from the productive sector, which is the private sector, and you will put it into the nonproductive sector, which is washington. so if you want ditching to dug and then to be filled up again, send more money to washington. but if you want jobs to be created, if you want the economy to thrive, you should want to leave that money in your community. it shouldn't matter to you whose money it is or who has it. you want that money, in my case we want that money in kentucky. we don't want to send to washington because there's no objective evidence that the money is well-spent up here. there's no objective evidence that we are good with money up here. so we shouldn't send more money up here. we should leave more money in the private sector. now, milton friedman recognized this when he said, nobody spends someone else's money as wisely as you spend your own.